Is it possible to reduce cigarette litter along a stretch of beach by educating people about the perils of tossing butts on the ground and enhancing options for disposing of the waste?
That’s the question DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) tackled over the past year through a pilot project conducted along a short stretch of a South Carolina beach.
Monitoring cigarette litter at Folly Beach
The project began in 2015, when OCRM received a grant from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct a cigarette litter reduction pilot study on Folly Beach in Charleston County. The pilot strategy involved targeted education and enhancement of cigarette litter disposal options. Additionally, OCRM monitored cigarette litter on the beach both before and after the project began in order to estimate its impact.
In late 2015, the team began designing educational materials, including flyers and foldable beach ashtrays, to increase public awareness and encourage proper disposal of cigarette litter. These materials were distributed at businesses on Folly Beach from June through September 2016.
In January 2016, new cigarette receptacles were installed at 15 walkovers on Folly. Previously installed receptacles were often used for disposal of non-smoking-related litter, which resulted in the receptacles becoming clogged. The new receptacles, made of sturdy PVC material, included an opening just wide enough to fit a cigarette butt.
The results: A reduction in cigarette litter
Monitoring events were conducted in September 2015 before implementing the project strategy, and in September 2016 after implementation.
While there are a number of factors that influence the number of cigarette butts encountered on the beach on any given day, including tidal and weather conditions, a comparison of the 2015 and 2016 post-Labor Day monitoring results shows that approximately 200 fewer cigarettes per person-hour were collected in 2016 than in 2015. In total, nearly 10,000 cigarette butts were removed from the 0.25-mile monitoring area over the course of this study. For more information on this pilot study, visit the project webpage.